Mark Strand once said that poets reach maturity when they move from saying private things in a public language to saying public things in a private language. I understand this statement to mean that a poet matures into not only a sense of scale wherein his/her work comes to describe more universal things than personal feelings or personal feelings as universal things; but, simultaneously, a style.
Because our general understanding of humility is calibrated by its outward expression, it seems arrogant when an artist is sufficiently satisfied with her or his own work to eschew the conventions of approval and praise.
The failure in this understanding is to recognize that humility exists not in the face of praise or recognition for or of one’s work but rather in the respect for the work’s materials, deference to the practice of making art in the first place, the pleasure of the work, the labor, the creation itself.
John Coltrane, “Bakai,” Coltrane, 1957.
What’s most interesting to me about this tune is that it struggles alternately to stay close to then-current jazz conventions and, by including that quarantined polyrhythmic bit, move away from it. The group is characteristically satisfying but this seemingly conflicted effort is what draws me to Bakai. I feel something similar in my own music: I want it to move out from my own tradition (rock, punk, post-etc.) but if I can get it out there, I retreat to something more familiar. Why I do this is, I think, obvious enough. I’m not ready to work without a net.
The matter of influence is a varied and frequently complex one, not least because of its relationship to authenticity, which I address here. I think it’s worth reiterating that I believe being truthful to one’s influences is as much a moral matter as it is a practical one, if not more so.
The question of how I want to sound is better derived from how well I play than the other way around. That is, I am more likely to be able to manage the sound of my kit if my strokes are assured, my sense of the kind of energy I want to create and support is clear. Without aspiration or inspiration, the best-tuned array of drums and cymbals won’t get me or my group very far.